An oversized peach, a centipede who designs fashionable shoes, an earthworm with a parasol, some Oompa-Loompas, a ladybug who carries extra bloomers in her purse, tarantula poop, crocodile tongues, a magic glowing bag, pigs, sharks, a cameo appearance by Willy Wonka, and a grasshopper who plays the fiddle.
Those are some of the delights onstage at James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl’s fantastical tale of a boy, his human-sized insect friends and their adventurous journey across the ocean on a giant piece of fruit.
The musical is this year’s Capitol Theatre summer youth production, opening July 25.
Malaika Horswill (music director) and Adriana Bogaard (stage director and set designer) look at the 21 teenage actors, dancers and singers in the production and they see themselves.
“It is super nostalgic but is a brand new thing,” says Horswill.
Both women participated many times in the youth program more than a decade ago, when they were kids.
Performers in the program may be young (ages 12 to 21), but the direction, sets, lighting, and sound are of adult professional calibre. That’s what makes the project so unique: young people are supported on all sides by very high production standards.
“When we were kids, we got to perform in a large scale production in a large theatre like this,” says Bogaard, “with full sets, full costumes and the level of training that the professional directors provided. To be coached vocally, to be coached in dance, that is so valuable in this program.”
The two directors are both good examples of what can happen as a result of being a kid on the summer Capitol stage.
Horswill, who first appeared in the summer production of Annie in 2001 when she was 12, got a bachelor of education after high school, then worked as a Grade 8 drama teacher, and (along with two other Nelson summer theatre alumni) founded and directs two innovative choirs in Vancouver, Gracenote and Kôr.
Bogaard, who also grew up in Nelson and on the Capitol stage, is a graduate of the theatre design program at the National Theatre School. She has lived and worked in theatre in Toronto and Montreal, and has worked for the Banff Centre, Caravan Theatre and The Canadian Children’s Opera Company.
The choreographer for the production is Mackenzie Hope, well known in Nelson theatre circles.
The three have a tough standard to meet.
The bar has been set high over the last 18 years by music director Allison Girvan, director Geoff Burns, and choreographer Lynette Lightfoot, all of whom retired from the program last year.
“They were so good at expecting a high calibre of production and at the same time making it super fun, so we are trying to fill those shoes,” Horswill says.
Why should Nelsonites visit James and his insect friends and their giant peach?
“The same reason they have always come,” says Bogaard, “to see the next generation of performing arts youth in this town doing their thing, and for the beautiful set pieces and puppets and amazing singing and performance. It’s such a fun classic story. So many of us read it growing up.”
James and Giant Peach runs July 25, 26, 27 at 7:30 p.m. and July 27 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre box office or at 250-352-6363 or online at capitoltheatre.ca.